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Erosion of Croagh Patrick a major concern ahead of 'Reek Sunday' pilgrimage

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are expected to climb ‘Ireland’s holiest mountain’ this Sunday…

Climbers on Croagh Patrick in July 2007.
Climbers on Croagh Patrick in July 2007.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE MOUNTAIN RESCUE team tasked with heading up the emergency response during this Sunday’s annual ‘Reek Sunday’ pilgrimage on Croagh Patrick has raised concerns of “serious erosion” at the peak.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are expected to climb ‘Ireland’s holiest mountain’ this weekend. The pilgrimage is traditionally held on the last Sunday of each July.

Mayo Mountain Rescue says there’s been significant erosion of the pathway to the summit in recent years — and the team are urging anyone planning on taking part to take appropriate precautions.

Scottish mountaineering expert Bob Aitken described it as ‘the worst-damaged pathway in the UK and Ireland’ at a seminar in Murrisk last year, according to the Mayo News.

While a study carried out by Mountaineering Ireland two years ago found that:

The path is in a significantly degraded state and the visual impact of the erosion is highly visible both from near and distant views.

“It’s fairly evident that there’s a good bit of erosion,” said Robert Hunt, PRO for Mayo Mountain Rescue.

The mountain is used quite regularly by a large number of groups, and the use of it has increased quite significantly over the years.

Hunt said that a stakeholder group set up to assess the extent of the damage and look at possible solutions, which included the local council, the Church, local landowners and Fáilte Ireland, had not, to his knowledge, met “in the last few months”.

“You can see the effects if you look at photos even for the last few years,” Hunt said, adding that people who attempt the climb barefoot are at particular risk.

“Our advice for anyone climbing is the general advice — to wear appropriate clothing, including an extra warm layer, because the temperature could drop further up.”

The wearing of “appropriate footwear” should also be a priority, he said, adding that whether people choose to do so or not is “completely beyond our control”.

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